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Sheila Jackson Lee

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Sheila Jackson Lee
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 18th district
Assumed office
January 3, 1995
Preceded by Craig Washington
Member of the Houston City Council from the At-large #4 District
In office
January 2, 1990 – January 3, 1995
Preceded by Anthony Hall
Succeeded by John Peavy
Personal details
Born Sheila Jackson
(1950-01-12) January 12, 1950 (age 67)
Queens, New York
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Elwyn Lee
Children 2
Residence Houston, Texas
Alma mater Yale University
University of Virginia Law School
Profession Attorney, judge
Religion Seventh-day Adventist

Sheila Jackson Lee (born January 12, 1950) is an American politician. She is currently the U.S. Representative for Texas's 18th congressional district, serving since 1995. The district includes most of inner-city Houston. She is a member of the Democratic Party.

Early life and education

Jackson Lee was born Sheila Jackson in Queens, New York. She graduated from Jamaica High School in Queens. She earned a B.A. in political science from Yale University in 1972, followed by a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1975.[1] She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.[2]

Early political career

Jackson Lee made three unsuccessful attempts at local judgeships before becoming a municipal judge from 1987 to 1990.[3] Jackson Lee, along with Sylvia Garcia, was appointed by then Mayor of Houston Kathy Whitmire. In 1989 she won the at-large position for a seat on the Houston City Council, serving until 1994.[3] While on the city council, Jackson Lee helped pass a safety ordinance that required parents to keep their guns away from children.[4] She also worked for expanded summer hours at city parks and recreation centers as a way to combat gang violence.[5]

U.S. House of Representatives



In 1994, Jackson Lee challenged four-term incumbent U.S. Congressman Craig Washington in the Democratic primary.[3] Washington had come under fire for opposing several projects that would have benefited the Houston area.[6] Jackson Lee defeated Washington in a rout, taking 63% to Washington's 37%.[7] The victory was tantamount to election in this heavily Democratic, black-majority district. In the general election, she defeated Republican nominee Jerry Burley 73%-24%.[8]


During this time period, Jackson Lee was never challenged in the Democratic primary. She won re-election during this time with at least 76% of the vote.[9]


For the first time in her congressional career, Jackson Lee was challenged in the Democratic primary; her opponents were Houston City Councilmember Jarvis Johnson and Sean Roberts. She defeated them 67%-28%-5%.[10]

It was reported that in October 2010 Jackson Lee was “asking the Department of Justice to investigate whether tea party groups are intimidating black and Hispanic voters in her district.” She requested that Attorney General Eric Holder send poll monitors to make sure that a local group wasn't stopping people from voting.[11]

She won the general election with 70 percent of the vote, the lowest winning percent of her career.[12]


In 2012, Jackson Lee was not challenged in the Democratic primary and won the general election with 75 percent of the ballots cast.[13]


Four Republicans competed in the March 1 primary election for the right to challenge Jackson Lee in the November 8 general election. Lori Bartley, with 5,679 votes (33.7 percent), led the field and faces a runoff on April 24 with the second-placed contender, Reggie Gonzales, who drew 5,578 votes (33.1 percent). Two other contenders, the stronger of whom was Sharon Joy Fisher with 4,405 votes (26.1 percent), held the remainder of the ballots cast.[14] Bartley then won the nomination over Gonzalez, 58 to 42 percent.[15]


Prior to the 110th Congress, Jackson Lee served on the House Science Committee and on the Subcommittee that oversees space policy and NASA.[citation needed] She is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus,[16] and a CBC whip.[6]

Staff turnover

In 2011 she was reported to have one of the highest staff turnovers in Congress and to be one of the worst bosses. The Huffington Post and Houston Chronicle reported that she had gone through 11 chiefs of staff in 11 years.[17][18] In 2011 she was named as one of the "worst bosses in Washington" by The Daily Caller.[19] The Huffington Post stated that "Jackson Lee regularly appears on Washingtonian magazine's list of the “Best and Worst of Congress” as the “meanest” member of House of Representatives."[17][20] That reputation as the worst boss on Capitol Hill continued; in 2012 Washingtonian again listed her as the meanest member of the House,[21] a report in 2013 concluded that "the veteran Texas Democrat had the highest turnover rate for all of Congress over the past decade."[22]

Foreign policy

In 2000, she favored permanently normalizing trade status for China, arguing that it would aid both human rights and Houston's economy.[23]

Jackson Lee traveled to the 2001 World Conference against Racism in South Africa, and has backed sanctions against Sudan.[24] On April 28, 2006, Jackson Lee, along with four other members of Congress and six other activists, was arrested for disorderly conduct in front of Sudan's embassy in Washington. They were protesting the role of Sudan's government in ethnic cleansing in Darfur.[25]

Jackson Lee has urged better relations between the U.S. and Venezuela, which she describes as a friendly nation. She said the U.S. should reconsider its ban on selling F-16 fighter jets and spare parts to that country. The U.S. State Department bans such sales due to "lack of support" for counter-terrorist operations and Venezuela's relations with Iran and Cuba.[26][27]

In July 2010 Jackson Lee said: "Today, we have two Vietnams, side by side, North and South, exchanging and working. We may not agree with all that North Vietnam is doing, but they are living in peace. I would look for a better human rights record for North Vietnam, but they are living side by side."[28] It was noted that Vietnam had not been split for four decades, and that the government of Vietnam does not consider South Vietnam to have ever been a sovereign nation.[29][30]


Jackson Lee is active on immigration issues.[31] She has proposed increasing border security and increasing opportunities for legalization among those living in the United States. She has opposed a guest worker program, saying that the idea of guest: "connotate[s] 'invite, come,' and, at the same time, it misleads because you ask people to come for a temporary job of three to six years and they have to leave if they don't have another job and I would think that they would not."[32]

Criticism of Tea Party

Speaking in July 2010 at the NAACP national convention, Jackson Lee compared the Tea Party to the KKK.[33]


In an October 2016 interview on MSNBC, Jackson mistakenly denounced Wikipedia in place of WikiLeaks. The story was concerned with the Hillary Clinton email controversy, with Jackson's exact quotation being "You know that I'm going to first of all denounce the utilization of this intrusion by Wikipedia through the Russian intrusion," "This is what it's about. Espionage just like what was said over these last couple of days. We need to be concerned about the intrusion of Russia and Putin in these elections."[34]

Health care

Jackson Lee said in January 2011 that repealing the health care law would be in violation of the Constitution. She argued that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is constitutional under the Commerce Clause, and that repealing it would violate both the Fifth and the Fourteenth Amendments.[35][36][37]


At a Homeland Security Committee hearing on radical Muslims in the US, held in March 2011, Jackson Lee said that Peter King's hearings were helping al-Qaeda and “going the same route as Arizona.” She complained that the hearings were scaring Muslim Americans and called them “an outrage.”[38]


On September 27, 2013, Jackson Lee introduced the Essential Transportation Worker Identification Credential Assessment Act (H.R. 3202; 113th Congress), a bill that would direct the United States Department of Homeland Security to assess the effectiveness of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program.[39] The bill would require an independent assessment of how well the TWIC program improves security and reduces risks at the facilities and vessels it is responsible for.[40]

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

Jackson Lee is or has been a member of a number of caucuses, including:

Space program

In 1997, while on a trip to the Mars Pathfinder operations center in California, Jackson Lee confused the planet Mars with Earth's own moon, asking whether the Pathfinder had succeeded in taking a picture of the flag planted on Mars by Neil Armstrong in 1969.[41][42]

Hurricane naming

Jackson Lee complained in 2003 that storm names were too white. "All racial groups should be represented," she said, and asked officials to "try to be inclusive of African-American names."[43]

Foreign travel

In May, 2015, The Washington Post reported Jackson Lee took a trip to Azerbaijan paid for by the government of that country.[44][45]

Confederate flag issue

On Thursday, July 9, 2015, Jackson Lee and others who were engaged in a debate over the Confederate battle flag produced an erroneous reproduction of what they thought was the original flag. The original battle flag contained 13 stars representing each state of the Confederacy as of 1861. The flag that Jackson Lee presented to members of Congress contained 17 stars.[46]

Personal life

Jackson Lee moved to Houston after her husband, Elwyn Lee, took a job at the University of Houston. Her husband now holds a dual position of Vice Chancellor and Vice President for Student Affairs of the University of Houston System and the University of Houston, respectively.[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Sheila Jackson Lee: Biography". Retrieved September 14, 2010. 
  2. ^ Magagnini, Stephen (January 1, 2008). "Pride and comfort ; National black sorority 'gathers for the specific purpose of being selfless'". Beaumont Enterprise. Beaumont, Tex. p. B.1. 
  3. ^ a b c FELDMAN, CLAUDIA (February 19, 1995). "SHEILA JACKSON LEE GOES TO WASHINGTON". Houston Chronicle. p. 6. 
  4. ^ ROBINSON, JAMES (April 23, 1992). "Council moves to keep guns away from kids". Houston Chronicle. p. 1. 
  5. ^ "FOR CONGRESS, DIST. 18/Recommending nomination of Sheila Jackson Lee". Houston Chronicle. February 13, 1994. p. 2. 
  6. ^ a b Tim Fleck (20 February 1997). "What's Driving Miss Shelia?". Houston Press. 
  7. ^ "TX District 18 - D Primary Race - Mar 08, 1994". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2013-06-13. 
  8. ^ "TX District 18 Race - Nov 08, 1994". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2013-06-13. 
  9. ^ "Candidate - Sheila Jackson-Lee". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2013-06-13. 
  10. ^ "TX District 18 - D Primary Race - Mar 02, 2010". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2013-06-13. 
  11. ^ "Sheila Jackson Lee wants DOJ to monitor tea partiers at polls". Politico. 28 October 2010. 
  12. ^ "TX - District 18 Race - Nov 02, 2010". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2013-06-13. 
  13. ^ "U.S. House District 18 Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Houston)". The Texas Tribune. Retrieved May 13, 2015. 
  14. ^ "Republican primary returns". Texas Secretary of State. March 1, 2016. Retrieved March 4, 2016. 
  15. ^ "Election Returns". Texas Secretary of State. May 24, 2016. Retrieved May 25, 2016. 
  16. ^ Wright, James (September 23, 1995). "Who's Who in the Congressional Black Caucus". Afro - American Red Star. 104 (6). Washington, D.C. p. B1. 
  17. ^ a b "Sheila Jackson Lee, Worst Boss In Congress? Goes Through 11 Chiefs Of Staff In 11 Years". The Huffington Post. June 20, 2011. 
  18. ^ Molly Harbarger (June 20, 2011). "Cuellar sees heavy turnover in Washington staff". San Antonio Express-News. 
  19. ^ Jonathan Strong (March 2, 2011). "Congressional bosses from Hell: Sheila Jackson Lee". The Daily Caller. 
  20. ^ Jonathan Strong (January 24, 2013). "Report: Sheila Jackson Lee is 'worst boss' on Capitol Hill". Houston Chronicle. 
  21. ^ "Best and Worst of Congress 2012". Washingtonian (magazine). August 29, 2012. 
  22. ^ Luke Rosiak (January 22, 2013). "Who are the best and worst bosses on Capitol Hill?". The Washington Times. 
  23. ^ "Small firms to get help in exporting". Houston Chronicle. October 7, 2000. p. 2. 
  24. ^ LEVINE, SAMANTHA (April 30, 2006). "DELEGATION WATCH / Jackson Lee backs her vow on Darfur / Calls her arrest a statement on the war and genocide". Houston Chronicle. p. 10. 
  25. ^ Jim Doyle, Five members of Congress arrested over Sudan protest, San Francisco Chronicle, April 28, 2006. Retrieved 25 September 2006.
  26. ^ "Jackson Lee wants ban on fighter jets reconsidered" at the Wayback Machine (archived February 25, 2007). Houston Chronicle. February 21, 2007
  27. ^ "Jackson Lee tries to smooth Chavez ties / Her Venezuela trip, she says, was an attempt to protect jobs here." Houston Chronicle.
  28. ^ "Sheila Jackson Lee Catches Flack for Citing 'Two Vietnams'". CBS News. 16 July 2010. Archived from the original on July 18, 2010. 
  29. ^ "Sheila Jackson Lee says there are two Vietnams: North and South". PolitiFact. 
  30. ^ Miller, Henry I. "Politicians Worthy Of Respect Are A Rare Commodity". Forbes. Retrieved 15 August 2012. 
  31. ^ Bill Swindell, "Texas Democrat gets praise for immigration efforts", Government Executive, 27 November 2006.
  32. ^ Sheila Jackson Lee, "Illegal Immigration's Impact on the U.S. Economy", NPR, 26 August 2005.
  33. ^ "Sheila Jackson Lee on the Tea Party and the Klan". The Atlantic. 
  34. ^ "Rep. Sheila Jackson confuses Wikipedia with Wikileaks". 
  35. ^ Phil Klein (18 January 2011). "Sheila Jackson Lee Says Repealing ObamaCare Violates Constitution". American Spectator. 
  36. ^ "Sheila Jackson Lee, D, Says Repealing Obamacare Is Unconstitutional". Fox News Channel. Retrieved May 7, 2015. 
  37. ^ Mark Hemingway (January 19, 2011). "Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas: Health care repeal violates the Fifth Amendment or something". San Francisco Examiner. 
  38. ^ Oliphant, James (11 March 2011). "Muslim 'radicalization' hearing a success, say Rep. Peter King, Republicans". LA Times. 
  39. ^ "CBO - H.R. 3202". Congressional Budget Office. Retrieved 27 July 2014. 
  40. ^ "Bill introduced to assess TWIC card". 8 October 2013. Retrieved 29 July 2014. 
  41. ^ Ben Jacobs (March 13, 2014). "The Constitution Is 400 Years Old and More Pearls From Sheila Jackson Lee". The Daily Beast. 
  42. ^ Alison Cook, "Alison Cook looks back at 1997: The Year That Bit", Houston Press, May 2, 2007.
  43. ^ Brandon Keim (August 26, 2009). "What's in a Hurricane Name?". Wired. 
  44. ^ Higham, Scott; Rich, Steven; Crites, Alice (May 13, 2015). "10 members of Congress took trip secretly funded by foreign government". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C. Retrieved 2015-05-13. 
  45. ^ Bresnahan, John (May 13, 2015). "Azerbaijani oil company secretly funded 2013 lawmaker trip". POLITICO. Retrieved 2015-05-13. 
  46. ^

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Craig Washington
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 18th congressional district

United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Rodney Frelinghuysen
R-New Jersey
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Walter B. Jones
R-North Carolina